Autistic people’s social difficulties linked to abnormal processing of touch Man hand pushing a digital screen on office background

Posted on November 18, 2016

Besides problems with social interactions, it has been known for a while that many people with autism experience sensory abnormalities, such as hypersensitivity to sounds, light or touch. With sensory impairment now officially included in diagnostic manuals, researchers have been trying to see if there’s a link between the sensory and social symptoms.

Such a link would make intuitive sense: For instance, it is easy to imagine that if someone experienced sensory stimuli more strongly, they would shun social interaction due to their complexity. More specifically, you would expect them to struggle with filtering out and making sense of social cues against the backdrop of sensory overload.

The researchers from Ghent recruited 19 men and women diagnosed with high functioning autism and 17 healthy control participants matched for gender, intelligence and age – both groups had an average age of around 32 years. While everyone filled out questionnaires assessing everyday problems with sensory processing, participants with autism received an additional questionnaire on the severity of their autism symptoms

To deliver tactile sensations, two electrodes were placed on the participants’ index and middle fingers of their right hand, which was covered with a dark cloth. Before the experiment began, 30 tactile stimulations (mild electric currents) were delivered to both fingers to familiarise participants with the device.

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Category(s):Autism spectrum disorders

Source material from British Psychological Society

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